Lectio Divina (Devotional Reading)
“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
When was the last time you read the Word of God to drink deeply of his presence rather than prepare a sermon or a Bible study? Lectio Divina is one way you can read Scripture to abide in God’s presence and to experience his living Word for you today.
Lectio Divina” (pronounced LEX-ee-oh dih-VEE-nuh) is a Latin phrase that means “divine reading” or “sacred reading. It is an ancient practice used throughout early church history for those who were illiterate or didn’t have Bibles to read. Adele Calhoun describes Lectio as a “devotional reading or hearing of Scripture aimed more at growing a relationship with God than gathering information about God” (Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, p. 168). It is also a form of “praying the Scriptures.” The following are the five traditional movements for practicing Lectio Divina, presented by Calhoun. Spiritual formation director, Linda Gist offers suggestions in bullet points below for implementing this practice (see more about Linda below).
- Silencio. Prepare your heart to be quiet. Come into God’s presence, slow down, relax, and intentionally release the chaos and noise in your mind to Him.
- Lectio. Read the word. Read a Scripture passage slowly and out loud, lingering over the words so that they resonate in your heart. When a word or phrase catches your attention, don’t keep reading. Stop and attend to what God is saying to you. Be open to that word or phrase. Don’t analyze it or judge it. Just listen and wait.
- Meditatio. Read the Scripture a second time out loud. Savor the words. Listen for any invitation that God is extending to you in this word. Reflect on the importance of the words that light up to you. Like Mary, who pondered the word in her heart, gently explore the ramifications of God’s invitation.
- Oratio. Respond and pray. Read the Scripture a third time. Now is the moment to enter into a personal dialogue with God. There is no right or wrong way to do this. The important thing is to respond truthfully and authentically. What feelings has the text aroused in you? Name where you are resistant or want to push back. Become aware of where you feel invited into a deeper way of being with God. Talk to God about these feelings.
- Contemplatio. Contemplate, rest and wait in the presence of God. Allow some time for the word to sink deeply into your soul. Yield and surrender yourself to God. Before you leave, you might consider a reminder that can help you dwell on or incarnate this word throughout the day.
- Select a passage of the Bible. A short passage of 5-10 verses is usually best.
- Walk yourself through the 5 movements.
- Feel free to write down your thoughts as you move through the reading.
- Don’t rush! Take time to pause and listen after each reading.
- Thank God for the time of abiding with him whether or not he speaks a direct word to you.
Suggested Passages to practice Lectio Divina:
- 1 John 3:1-3
- John 17:20-26
- Ephesians 1:3-10
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
- Colossians 1:15-20
To learn more about lectio divina, see the following resources:
Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.
Robert Mulholland. (1985). Shaped by the Word: The Power of Scripture in Spiritual Formation. Nashville, TN: Upper Room.
Norveen Vest. (1996). Gathered in the Word: Praying the Scripture in Small Groups. Nashville, TN: Upper Room.
Chris Webb. (2011). Fire of the Word by Meeting God on Holy Ground. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.
Spiritual contributor and curator: Linda Gist is a spiritual formation director in Sacramento, California. She is a graduate of the Renovare© Institute for Christian Spiritual Formation and regularly leads retreats for pastors.
To contact Linda, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Linda’s website: Rhythms of Grace
Executive editor: Russ Gunsalus
Curator of content: Dave Higle